I want to be sure that proper expectations are set before I really get started with sharing my opinions on the first day and how some of the guys looked. First, I want it to be clear that these are first impressions of guys in non-contact drills without pads. These factors really tend to change to initial impression you get on some of these kids. Secondly, first impressions tend to be flat wrong at times. I'm not a "scout" by any means, but even the guys who get paid to do this miss the mark at times after one viewing. I can recall how bad I thought Dan Stricker would be after seeing him for the first time. I also recall how I thought Lew Thomas would rush for 1,000 yards in a season sometime during his career. Incorrect evaluations, work ethics, continued growth (physically and maturity-wise), and good response to coaching can change these first impressions. Disclaimers out of the way, let's get started!
This class looks very, very solid. It looks to be Woody's best class by a decent margin at this point, and I truly believe that we are an "out of the box", dominating DL away from this being a top 30-type class. Otherwise, I cannot imagine there being 40 or 45 significantly better classes out there, and I have seen practices at Tennessee, Alabama, and Ole Miss. This group is the most athletic and physically mature bunch I have seen come in since I started regularly attending practices in 1995. At first glance, this does look like a group you can build upon.
They worked on fairly basic stuff, as they always do with the freshmen. They are basically getting the accustomed to the drills and practice routines. It is also a golden opportunity to give these guys more targeted, individual instruction than they will be able to receive when the veterans come on board. They ran through individual position drills focusing on technique. The participated in one-on-one drills. They got a taste of our schemes. Thankfully, this class is large enough and well-distributed enough to be able to conduct non-contact 7 on 7 drills, and put these principles into action. It is from these activities that the following short, notes-style evaluations and thoughts are drawn.
Player by Player
- David Koral (QB) - struggled hitting receivers in stride, and threw some wobblers could be the result of nerves or difficulty adjusting to the speed showed outward signs of frustration when things weren't going right not a good first day.
- Jay Cutler (QB) - showed off some really nice athleticism in some option-like plays nice passer with good pace and accuracy played some DB, but probably just to try and scrape together teams for 7 on 7 good frame physically definitely looks like a good catch seems quite coachable will redshirt, but not because of his ability.
- Ben Koger (S) - practicing despite his walk-on status for the first semester struggled in one on one drills has a reputation as a good hitter, but practices were non-contacts needs a lot of technique work in coverage several plays on WR's would be pass interference he will need this redshirt year.
- Dominique Morris (CB) - looked fluid and smooth at CB showed good athleticism looked comfortable, but didn't see him enough to get a great feel for him.
- Cheron Thompson (CB) - very fine athlete, who is in tremendous shape looks good in coverage going step for step on long routes with some of our new, speedy WR's has nice make up speed and anticipation he may push for playing time at the nickel back next year and starting position the next I was quite impressed.
- Jason Mathenia (WR) - easily the standout of the practices fantastic hands with the ability to catch balls behind, over, under, or anywhere around him always uses his hands instead of body great speed sharp, clean cuts good feel for the position during warm-up 10 yard sprints, he was always two steps ahead by the end, and one step ahead from the very beginning appears to have great explosion off the line looked equally good working the middle and sides made a couple of great catches on off target throws will likely see playing time immediately.
- Matthew Tant (FB/RB) - wow is all you can say about him physically wearing #33 he looks like a bigger McGrath has good straight ahead speed, and that is his style of running showed off great hands, able to catch balls that require twisting and leaping he looks able to play this season.
- Jerrin Holt (WR) - unbelievable physical specimen, just an extremely well put together WR not blazing fast, but looks good making his moves sharp cuts clean for the most part struggled with his hands on the first day I may have overestimated his ability to help immediately from his press clippings looks like he could be a great one, but needs some polishing in the mold of a Michael Irvin in that he's not the fastest or quickest, but makes good moves and is very physical.
- Moses Osemwegie (S/LB) - played ILB in 7 on 7, but that could change when the veterans practice looks to be slightly bigger than 205 looked good in individual drills nice change of direction I didn't get to see the LB's that much, and will try to focus on them more later.
- Marty Morgan (OLB) - physically he will remind you of Matt Stewart as a Sophomore or Junior tall, but already has some build moves pretty well again I'll give more on the LB's at a later date
- Dustin Dunning (TE) - fabulous hands was the only TE at practice, and he got lot's of individual work too small to contribute at TE this season when he gains 25 to 30 pounds he can be an asset offensively the question has to be can he block? had a good first day.
- Otis Washington (ILB) - he might be in the 5-9 or 5-10 range rather than 5-11 to 6-0 well put together, solid build very good movement other than height, appeared to be as good as his recruiting stature indicated again, I didn't see much of the LB work.
- Lance Garner (K) - only worked on extra point-type kicks, nothing long looked serviceable enough, though some kicks were slightly low no real read on his leg strength or accuracy at this point he was getting as much attention as anyone, which is apropos due the role he will need to play.
- Jovan Haye (OLB) - simply put, he's a beast fantastic build and frame every bit of the 240 he is listed, probably more like 250 good movement for that size looks like he could be a great pass rusher looks like he could be a future star ditto on the previous LB remark.
- Tommy Johnstone (ILB) and Paul Meadows (LB) - I came away a bit unimpressed, but it's early and as I keep saying, I didn't get much time to watch the LB's.
- Nigel Seaman (OT) - huge kid with a very solid base (legs and torso) looks like he fits the 6-4 to 6-5 listing every bit of the 300-305 listed in good shape footwork looked good you can't tell until they start hitting, but he could help out this year.
- Ryan King (OT) - big kid average footwork lots of potential working beside an athlete like Seaman might have overshadowed him a bit looks like he will help out in the future.
- Ralph McKenzie (DL) and Trey Holloway (DL) - both are very big kids both are definite NT's both look to fit their descriptions during recruiting, low bases of power, able to hold up an OL too early to tell if they can contribute this year, but look physically ready.
- Brandon Smith (WR) - pretty smooth with pretty good speed mixed opinions among the onlookers, some thinking he was looking great and others not I thought he looked pretty good probably won't break in this season, but potential to start down the line.
- Jason Caldwell (WR) - played both DB and WR probably playing DB for the same reasons as Cutler, simply needing the bodies to practice 7 on 7 very nice looking athlete good speed and quickness needs work on technique and cutting some cuts and moves were a bit sloppy could help at WR or DB solid player.
- Keith Williams (WR) - probably the second best looking WR besides Mathenia listed as the same size as Caldwell (6-1 185), but appears a bit larger good solid build smooth in change of direction and cutting pretty good hands made a fabulous adjustment and catch on a long sideline pattern with Thompson all over him in 7 on 7 could possibly play this year if injuries come into play, but experienced guys will likely play first good pickup.
- Eric Byrum (OLB) - great looking frame physically could grow into a DE ditto on the LB's.
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